mental health · Workouts

Motivation.

Where does motivation come from? There is a scientific explanation for how motivation is created in the brain. The simplest explanation: dopamine’s chemical signal is transmitted from one neuron to the next, depending on the pathway of this transmitting you end up with motivation.

Of course that is not really what we want to read when we are looking for motivation, I think most of all we just want an easy to follow guide that takes us from unmotivated to motivated in a blink. I certainly wish I had more motivation, and that I knew how to keep myself motivated.

When dealing with mental health, especially depressive disorders, motivation is a big thing, or rather a big thing that is lacking. This time of year is always hard for me, for various reasons, and I struggle to find the motivation to do mostly anything. Get out bed is a chore, eat is a chore, being awake is chore.

To try to  battle it I find something to keep me busy, but mostly that ends up feeling like a chore too. It feels like a chore even if it is something I normally like (for example writing these blog posts).

The hardest thing of all is to have motivation to work out. January, for me. I believe that it is best to combat the lack of motivation by trying to press through it. It usually work if I have the will power. If the will power is lacking I usually try to involve other people, to create more pressure to see it through.

When when pressuring yourself it is also important to keep things simple, which is why I have dubbed January Cardio month (for me anyway). The important thing for me in January is that I go to the gym just for a while, even if I only hit the treadmill for 20 minutes. Anything is better than nothing, and if I do not keep it simple I know that I will just stay at home because I can find so many reasons and excuses to skip going to the gym.

Do things you enjoy, maybe do a little extra of the things you like. The selfish stuff. The “shouldn’t do” stuff. And don’t beat yourself up about it. If you feel like taking a 30 minute shower, do it. If you want to eat a box of chocolate, do it, but take ownership of that choice and don’t beat yourself up for it (because you do not want to do things that makes you feel worse).

Make lists. Write down the simplest things like “get out of bed,” “Shower,” “eat dinner” and “go to bed.” Set yourself up for success, so even things like “Tidy up one object,” you can tidy up one thing. The small goals and the check-lists help me through my lowest lows, and I write them by hand (it makes me connect more than typing it digitally). I throw away the list when the day is over, regardless if it is completed or not, because tomorrow is a new day.

Meditate. It might be cliché, but calming your mind does have a positive effect. Even if it is just for a few minutes it can help you feel more in control, more balances and make you more self-aware and open-minded. Spare just 5 minutes at the end of the day, download a free meditation app or get a meditation clip from YouTube and calm your mind for a couple of minutes.

The important thing is to find something that works for you. When you feel like doing nothing, and you keep feeling like that for days, treat yourself, make sure that you also cross something off your to-do-list and make room for quiet reflection.

That is what I do this week: I make lists and I go to the gym and work out even if I don’t feel like it, because I know it will help in the long run.

And I learned for last week, where I forgot to post Friday’s work out so I will add the three HIIT workouts I’ve written below.

Monday: 

5 Rounds for time:

10 Jumping Jacks
10 squats
5 Squat Jumps
10 Press Ups
10 Bear crawl fire-feet
5 Squat jumps

Wednesday

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes

10 Jumping Jacks
10 squats
5 Squat Jumps
10 Press Ups
20 Bear crawl fire-feet
5 Squat jumps

Friday:

5 Rounds for time:

200 m run (if you have nowhere to run run in place for 250 steps)
10 Squats
10 Pressups
10 Abdominal crunch

Break down of each exercise and variation: 

Jumping Jacks. 

Stand with arms down your side and legs together, jump legs out while bringing hands to over head (or shoulder height depending on your shoulder-flexibility). Jump back to start position.

Squats: 

Stand with your legs hip with apart, face forwards and start the movement through a hinge in your hip before you bend both your hips and knees at the same time down into a squat position where your thighs are parallel to the floor lower. Ensure that keep your knees over your feet (don’t let them sink towards the middle or extend outside the foot). Keep your knees behind your toes.
If you have issues getting down to parallel only squat down as far as you can comfortably get back up. This is important, especially when starting out, depth will come with time and when you build up your flexibility.

Squat Jump: 

Same as above but when you press up from the squat you jump up to full body extension (you can reach overhead if your like or let arms remain where they are). If you have a bench available you can swap this exercise for box jumps where you jump up and down from the bench (remember to stand up straight on top of the bench), this will make the exercise harder.

Press up/ Push up: 

Lay down on the floor with face down. In order to find the ideal position for your  hands stretch your arms out over your head and then slide them down, starting with the elbow, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Depending on your strength you’d probably like to either press up, keeping your body straight keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line.

Or you can press up from the knees, keeping shoulder’s, hips and knees in line. If that is too heavy you can also do a box press up by pulling your knees closer to your hands.
You can also do press up against the wall, or a steady table, this will make the movement easier to do.

Bear crawl fire-feet

Get down on all fours so that you form a box with your body, keep your feet apart so that your knees are directly under your hips, leaving your knees at a 90 degree angle. Stand up on your toes so that the knees aren’t in contact with t he floor. Hands should be directly under your shoulders, chest should be upright and shoulders detracted. Keep your hands in contact with the ground, but quickly lift one and one foot from the ground as if running in place, try to keep the rest of your body as still as possible.
If my description is too complicated, there is a video of the exercise over at bodybuilding.com.

Ab crunch:

Lay down on your back, press your lower back down enough so you can fit one finger between you and the floor. Put your arms on your thighs. Then lift your shoulders up from the floor, sliding your arms up until your fingertips touches your knee. Ensure you are keeping your neck neutral by pretending to ball between your chin and the top of your chest.
To make the exercise harder you can move you arms to cross on your chest, place your hands or placing your hands by your ears (then make sure you are not pulling on your head with your hands as you lift your shoulders form the floor).

If you want you can post your time and rounds in the comments.

Below I have attached one of my favourite guided meditations:

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